Overview: Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, and Clark Duke are at it again, sans the emotional center provided by John Cusack in the original, while still managing to deliver on all of the time-traveling hijinks that made the first one a distracting amusement. 2015; Distributed by Paramount Pictures; Rated R; 93 minutes.
Back to the Future: Once again helmed by the inimitable Steve Pink, of High Fidelity and Grosse Pointe Blank fame, and written by one of the three screenwriters of the original, Josh Heald, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is a bit of a rarity. It’s a studio comedy sequel irreverent in its ties to an original that enjoyed unprecedented critical success, and its concept, while trite and ludicrous, bears an originality in its comparatively deft level of technical execution. While this second trip in the titular tub is lukewarm at best, the power of its comic trio who return for another dip in its trans-dimensional waters provides Hot Tub Time Machine 2 an earnestness sadly lacking in your average studio comedy franchise. Where such films as those comprising The Hangover trilogy feature similarly stale gags and misogynistic content, Pink’s Hot Tub Time Machine 2 at times peers behind the curtain of its dependence on phallic humor. Its protagonists are immediately likable despite the callous nature of the one-liners and shallow insults that they are forced to sling at one another in the guise of fraternal familiarity, ensuring that viewers will will want to go back to the future once more.
It’s Like The Terminator: Instead of taking its time travel sub-plot too seriously, Pink and Heald handle the wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey nature of the film’s particular sci-fi genre with kid gloves, never attempting to over explain or exploit a narrative conceit that’s fundamentally ridiculous. Instead, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 uses time travel as a narrative jumping board from which they may explore increasingly ridiculous scenarios and set pieces for its comic trio to explore. In the film’s investigation into increasingly luxurious futures, Pink and Heald summarily indict the very callow vein of social cruelty which their comedy knowingly indulges in, laying bare the insipidly shallow nature of an unemotional culture willing to denigrate others in an attempt to escape feeling anything deeper than the self-serving pangs of ego. Admittedly, the moralizing on display in the film’s third act is a little too convenient to feel entirely heartfelt, but it’s the thought that counts, lending a certain sense of decency to the proceedings, even when we’re laughing at tasteless fodder.
They’ll Be Back: If a third rinse is indeed in our cinematic future, and given the open ended nature of the ending of Hot Tub Time Machine 2 such an occurrence appears to be inevitable, Pink and Heald couldn’t possibly do any worse than they already have. While a sequel to the original was certainly unasked for by all accounts, the intelligence apparent in Heald’s script added to the emotional cohesion lent by the series’ comic trio allows Hot Tub Time Machine 2 space to breathe and come into its own. While not entirely in keeping with the sentimental nostalgia that made a surprise hit out of the original, Pink’s sequel is just as witty in its implementation of humor arising from Hot Tub Time Machine 2’s fairly contentious and potentially convoluted sci-fi elements.
Overall: Heralding its sci-fi trope as a cinematic calling card, while grounding itself in the well-earned humor of its cast, Steve Pink and Josh Heald have lobbed yet another time travel comedy out of left field, possessing all of the irreverence and a little of the satisfaction of its objectively superior predecessor.